The Telegraph
Wednesday , April 2 , 2014
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Poll pinch for bus commuters
Leave to spare students agony of auto-cracy

Buses would go out of commuters’ reach almost a week ahead of Lok Sabha polls in the city on April 17, triggering transport trouble.

The administration would start acquiring vehicles, including school buses, for poll duty from April 11. The commuters would feel its pinch for almost a week because the administration would start releasing the acquired vehicles from April 18 evening. The restoration of the regular city bus service before April 19 looks improbable.

The acquisition of school buses would not have much impact, though. Students would not have to struggle to attend classes because most institutions in the city are expected to remain closed from either April 14 or 15 as both Patna Sahib and Pataliputra constituencies would go to polls on April 17.

Six days ahead of D-Day, the administration would acquire vehicles for poll duty. Around 1,800 vehicles, including city service and school buses, and six-seater autorickshaws, would be pressed into service for ferrying security forces and officials on election duty as well as poll-related material.

Several commuters are concerned over the problems they would face after the city buses go off roads. “True, most city buses are in a bad shape but their fare is almost half of autorickshaws. For instance, the auto fare on the Gandhi Maidan-Patna Junction route is Rs 10 but the same for city service buses is Rs 5. Besides, when the buses are rare on the streets the auto drivers try to charge excessive fare to cash in on the transport crisis,” said Suresh Kumar, a New Market-based shopkeeper.

Most bus owners are not happy either. Umesh Sinha, the general secretary of Nagar Seva Minibus Owners’ Association, claimed that its members were not satisfied with the rates set by the transport department for the vehicles to be used in the election duty.

According to a notification issued by the transport department on March 13, the daily rental fee for buses is in the range of Rs 2,000-2,200, Rs 1,500 for minibuses, Rs 650-750 for cars, and Rs 800-1,200 for SUVs. The rates have been increased two-fold for most categories compared to the last Lok Sabha elections in 2009.

While the obligatory move would weaken the city’s public transport backbone, it has prompted several schools to prepare a special holiday calendar to spare children the trouble of hopping on and off undependable autorickshaws to attend classes. Most schools are expected to remain closed either from April 14 or 15.

“We had written a letter to the district magistrate to allow us surrender our buses on April 15 and the corresponding permission has been given to us. As the buses are likely to be released by April 18, we intend to resume the classes from April 19,” said Krishna Mohan Singh, manager, Krishna Niketan.

Patna Central School is also mulling over a similar closure schedule. “We cannot afford to compromise with the classes much as we are about to start the session from April 7. Hence, we are likely to close down either from April 14 or 15 and reopen on April 21,” said Manjit Tiwari, a computer science teacher at Patna Central School.

Missionary schools have managed to save a few extra holidays because they were already scheduled to be closed for the Easter. “The Easter would start from April 13 but the main celebrations would be held on April 17, 18 and 20. According to the tentative schedule, the school is expected to be closed from April 15 and open on Tuesday, April 22. Easter falls on April 20 (Sunday) and we don’t have classes on Easter Monday as well,” said a teacher at St Michael’s High School.

Don Bosco Academy is scheduled to be closed from April 17 to 21 for Easter holidays. Mary Alphonsa, the principal of Don Bosco said the holidays might be advanced because of requisition of buses for the election duty.

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